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Government pledges safer meat for Canadians

From Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products, such as deli meats, are being studied by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists to ensure their safety and find new ways to make healthier products. A team led by Dr. Sampathkumar Balamurugan of AAFC’s Guelph Food Research Centre is working on two research studies to ensure that industry processing techniques of RTE meats provide the safest and healthiest food options for Canadians.

The most common way of making RTE meats safe is by heating the product to kill bacteria. However, some traditional products, such as salami, are not cooked but are fermented and dry cured. Dr. Balamurugan is examining how different fermentation and dry curing processes impacts seven serotypes of E. coli, and other illness-causing bacteria, in dry-fermented sausages.

Since today’s consumers want healthier food options and this is frequently achieved by reducing salt content in food, Dr. Balamurugan is also examining how reducing sodium chloride (salt) in RTE meats and replacing it with an alternative compound, like potassium chloride or calcium chloride, will impact shelf life in these products. He is specifically looking at RTE meats that have been processed using a high pressure/cold pasteurization technique, which kills all bacteria present with minimal changes to the characteristics of foods.

“We found that reducing salt content in RTE meats actually increases the efficiency of high pressure treatments,” says Dr. Balamurugan. “Higher efficiency means reduced treatment times, which saves energy and reduces processing costs, which is beneficial for industry and the environment.”

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